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Libya: increasing health-care needs

05-07-2011 Operational Update

The ICRC is gradually gaining access to areas throughout Libya where the need for humanitarian aid is reportedly most acute. After reaching the south-west, ICRC staff have now entered the Jebel Nefusa mountains.

Responding to urgent health-care needs

The ICRC has started providing assistance to hospitals to care for the wounded on the front lines in the Jebel Nefusa mountains south-west of Tripoli. Kits containing surgical supplies, intravenous fluids and dressing materials for the treatment of 50 patients have been distributed to hospitals in Zintan and Gharyan. Medical assistance will also be provided for the hospital in Yefren in the coming days.

"In south-western Libya, particularly in the towns of Sabha and Murzuq, essential medicines, vaccines, and emergency items such as dressing materials and intravenous fluids are in short supply," said Paul Castella, the outgoing head of the ICRC delegation in Tripoli. "There is a risk that measles and other communicable diseases will spread. In addition, the treatment of patients with chronic diseases is not assured. Some patients with kidney failure have died owing to inadequate maintenance of the machines they rely on to survive. The ICRC is responding to this situation rapidly."

In the Jebel Nefusa

"ICRC staff are currently working in the conflict-stricken mountainous area," said Mr Castella. "In addition to providing medical assistance, they are assessing the needs of the civilian population, including those of thousands of displaced people, and preparing for visits to people detained in connection with the conflict. These activities involve staff based in Tripoli and others based in Zarzis, in south-eastern Tunisia."

The ICRC plans to assess the humanitarian situation in other areas as soon as possible.

Visiting detainees

In June the ICRC visited almost 460 people held in three prisons in Tripoli. The aim was to monitor their treatment and conditions of detention, and to give them the opportunity to restore contact with their families. Such visits will continue.

In Misrata, ICRC delegates have visited more than 300 people held in two facilities run by the Libyan armed opposition. The delegates distributed 150 mattresses, 400 bed sheets, clothes and hygiene kits to the detainees, in addition to 1.3 tonnes of food. They have also visited a total of 105 detainees in two detention places in Benghazi.

Reuniting families dispersed by the conflict

"We thought my nephew was dead. We had no news from him, but today the ICRC is bringing him back to us. I just cannot express how I feel," said Abdelhafiz, while waiting for his nephew at the port in Benghazi.

Hundreds of families were thrilled to be reunited with their loved ones arriving from Tripoli or Benghazi aboard an ICRC-chartered vessel after four months of separation caused by the conflict. Some 650 people made the trip from Tripoli to Benghazi. More than 100 were transferred in the other direction. Passengers on the Tripoli-Benghazi route included 64 detainees released by the Libyan government.

The ICRC has been working since the beginning of the conflict in close cooperation with the Libyan, Tunisian and Egyptian Red Crescent societies to restore contact between family members and reunite families. The ICRC has arranged for around 13,600 phone calls to be made between family members inside Libya, and more than 75,000 calls between people who fled to the Tunisian and Egyptian borders and their relatives.

Assistance in Misrata and in the east

ICRC staff visited Misrata from 25 June to 2 July. Shops, restaurants and other businesses are open, and people are back in the streets. Many local residents have joined in an effort to remove debris left over from the fighting in some of the worst affected parts of the city. Nevertheless, the security situation remains tenuous. Local volunteers are being trained to clear unexploded munitions. In addition, campaigns are under way with Libyan Red Crescent volunteers to warn the population of the danger of such devices. A five-member ICRC explosive ordnance disposal team will pursue its work in the city throughout July.  

Earlier in June, the ICRC destroyed more than 300 pieces of unexploded ordnance in Ajdabiya that were collected from houses, schools, major streets and public buildings in order to make it safer for civilians to return to their homes.

The ICRC delivered 3.6 tonnes of surgical and other medical supplies to the central pharmacy in Misrata so that they would be available to the hospital for treating casualties in the event of an emergency. It also delivered enough food and hygiene items to cover the needs of 25,000 internally displaced people, in addition to 500 kitchen sets and 2,500 blankets. The ICRC also provided spare parts needed for the repair of the water and sewage system to the authorities.

In Misrata and Ajdabiya, the ICRC provided training in first aid, mass casualty management and other emergency health procedures for hospital staff, nursing personnel, medical students, ambulance dispatchers and volunteers.

The ICRC also distributed food and other items to around 21,000 people displaced internally in the eastern part of the country.

Assistance for refugees and stranded foreigners in border areas

With ICRC support, the Tunisian Red Crescent started a distribution of hygiene items and kitchen sets to 14,000 Libyan refugees in Tataouine. The ICRC distributed almost 34,000 additional bottles of mineral water in the Choucha camps, where several thousand migrant workers remain stranded, in addition to carrying out maintenance work and repairs on the water network. It also has two water pipeline projects under way with the aim of increasing the supply of fresh drinking water for the local and refugee population in Ben Guerdane and Remada.

Also with ICRC support, the Egyptian Red Crescent Society has provided almost 36,000 breakfasts to those stranded along the border in Salloum since the beginning of June.

These activities were closely coordinated with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

For further information, please contact:
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Benghazi, tel: +870 772 390 124
Robin Waudo, ICRC Tripoli, tel: +881 622 435 156
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 536 92 50